Kyle Vogt, the founder and chief executive of General Motors’ driverless car subsidiary Cruise, resigned on Sunday, less than a month after Cruise suspended all autonomous operations following a series of traffic accidents.
The resignation of one of the most vocal champions of self-driving cars in the tech industry is a surprising fall from prominence. He leaves behind a company in deep trouble and an industry facing increased public and regulatory scrutiny.
Cruise took all of its driverless cars off the road in California after their licenses to drive them were suspended. The company is considering layoffs due to rising costs. And it is awaiting the report of an outside law firm’s investigation into how it responded to a crash last month in which a Cruise car dragged a woman 20 feet.
Faced with those challenges, General Motors, which acquired Cruise for $1 billion in 2016, has taken a more active role in its subsidiary, and its involvement is expected to deepen in Mr. Vogt’s absence. Rather than install a new chief executive, GM appointed two presidents who will report to its board: Mo Elshenawy, Cruise’s executive vice president of engineering, and Craig Glidden, GM’s general counsel.
The turmoil at Cruise has raised concerns among driverless car rivals that regulators could step up their enforcement and scrutiny of the industry, slowing Aurora’s expansion plans; Zoox, a division of Amazon; and Waymo, which has been piloting robot taxis largely without incident in San Francisco.
Mr. Vogt, 38, did not respond to requests for comment. In a post on
Mr. Vogt started Cruise a decade ago and promoted driverless cars as a way to prevent car-related deaths while earning billions of dollars. But its future is in doubt after the accident last month.
General Motors Chief Executive Mary Barra sent an email to Cruise employees on Sunday in which she thanked Mr. Vogt for “his tremendous vision” and said the board understands and respects his resignation.
“The Board and I also want to let you know that we are intensely focused on setting Cruise up for long-term success,” he wrote. “Public trust is essential for this. As we work to rebuild that trust, security, transparency and accountability will be our north stars.
Cruise’s troubles escalated over the summer as the company expanded its self-driving taxi fleet in San Francisco. Within a few months, 10 cruise vehicles stopped working in the middle of a busy road. In a separate episode, a cruise car collided with a fire truck. Another of his vehicles went into wet concrete and got stuck.
But the most problematic episode occurred on October 2 when a cruise car dragged the woman. The woman was struck by a car at a San Francisco intersection and thrown into the path of one of Cruise’s driverless taxis. The cruise car passed over him, stopped for a while and then dragged him to the shore.
When the California Department of Motor Vehicles investigated the crash, it said that Cruz had removed footage of the woman being dragged from video provided to the agency. The DMV said Mr. Vogt was not among the three officers who attended a meeting about the crash.
On October 24, the DMV asked Cruise to shut down its driverless car operations in the state. It said he had met with the self-driving car company about 50 times in 2023.
After the accident, Cruz Said he hired Quinn Emanuel, a law firm, will investigate the company’s response to the accident. It also hired Exponent, a consulting firm that evaluates complex software systems, to conduct a separate review of the accident.
The timing of Cruz’s suspension was unfortunate for Ms. Barra. He has spent years promoting GM’s ability to make its business profitable. She was co-chair of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation trade summit in San Francisco this month, which was attended by dignitaries from around the world, including President Biden. The event should have been a chance to show off Cruz’s ability to shuttle people around town in driverless Chevy Bolts. Instead, its driverless cars were parked.
Mr. Vogt has dreamed of building a self-driving car since he was a child. He started Cruise when his first start-up company, Twitch, was bought by Amazon for $1 billion.
In his post on
“The start-up I launched in my garage has delivered more than 250,000 driverless rides across multiple cities, each ride inspiring people with little knowledge of the future,” Mr. Vogt wrote.